Tuesday, November 27, 2012

One Month Down

13th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in the New York New York South Mission

Hey Family!
Thanksgiving Day marked my one month out in the field. That's crazy. It feels like just yesterday that we were flying into New York with no idea what was going on. And here I am with still very little idea of what's going on most of the time. But that's partly due to a giant hurricane I guess.
Anyways, this last week has been pretty interesting. We've mostly been helping one guy the whole week. We started helping him last Sunday and we just kept working there all week and we're doing more for him this week. He really needs the help, so I'm glad we found him. He lives in Far Rockaway and the hurricane flooded his basement pretty bad. That's pretty much expected. Every basement was flooded out there. But the problem with his house is that part of the first floor got mold in the walls. Then the mold spread to his second floor. And his daughter is on dialysis because she has cancer. So because of that, he can't have any mold in the entire house. She can't live there with any remnmants of mold. So we have to take out every wall in the whole house and every floor on the first floor. The only thing that can really stay is the upstairs bathroom and the floors upstairs. Other than that, everything has to go. It's a lot of work to be done, so we've just been going back every day to keep helping him out. It's just him out there, so he really needs the help.
That has kept us busy most of the week. Although we had a few breaks because of Thanksgiving. Last Tuesday the mission held a Thanksgiving lunch for the whole mission. We got adjusted by our chiropractor friend just before heading out there. They had a testimony meeting and a big lunch for everyone. It was fun to see everyone and to have a day to relax and recover.
On Thanksgiving Day, there is a mission tradition where we get a bunch of zones together and have a Turkey Bowl football game. We had to drive a ways to get there, but it was pretty fun. I think we had like 3 zones there, so it was a good time. I'm pretty terrible at football and will openly admit that, but it's fun to just run around with everybody. That and we had a two hour roadtrip. I'm always down for a good roadtrip.
Since the Far Rockaway Branch isn't exactly in the best of shape right now, we had no plans for Thanksgiving Dinner. The guys we live with were considering just a trip to McDonalds. But Sister Calderwood heard we didn't have anywhere to go, so she invited us to go to their house. I've been told that this is a dream come true for Spanish missionaries in the field. Since Thanksgiving isn't really a Hispanic thing, they don't really get the concept of a turkey dinner and all the fun stuff usually involved in Thanksgiving. I would have been happy with anything, but getting to go to the Mission President's home for Thanksgiving dinner isn't something you pass up.
My district in Far Rockaway has 6 elders, so we all got to come and then the office elders and the AP's were there too. There were two other families that are friends with the Calderwoods there too. It was an awesome dinner. They had tons of food and it was all delicious. Sister Calderwood told me that I had to play the piano for her since she made the dinner. I told her that sounded like a fair deal to me. They didn't have any music or anything, so I just sat down and played whatever I could remember. It was a lot of fun. I guess President Calderwood is a big fan of Billy Joel, so he loved hearing the Piano Man and the Rootbeer Rag. Glad I learned those ones. You never know when it will come in handy.
Things are slowly calming down out here. Most of the mission only does service on the weekends. They proselyte during the week, then on Saturday and Sunday they come down and help out with any other members that get bussed in. But since we don't really have anywhere to proselyte, we keep on serving every day. All the work over the last month is starting to catch up with me, but I don't think we'll be doing it too much longer. The transfer ends a week from tomorrow and we think that they're going to move us around to give us a bit of a break. And to finally get trained. Although I wouldn't complain if I didn't have to do the lame training program. They just repeat everything you learned in the MTC. It's not very difficult to understand. But I'll do it if I have to.
That's about all there is to report at the moment. Service every day and hanging out at night. I'm getting super good at Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit. That and we bought a game of movie trivia, so I'm not too bad at that either. My companion is the master of movie trivia though. He might even give Luke a run for his money on actor and director knowledge. I think Luke would win, but it would be a good competition.
All the service that has been given here by the Mormons is legendary by now. We were out there today trying to get some food and blankets for a woman who can't leave her house. We went up to one of the tents set up by FEMA and Red Cross and they were apprehensive of us at first because we just looked like a bunch of punk kids. Then we told them that we were with Mormon Helping Hands and they welcomed us with open arms, thanking us for everything we've done telling us to get whatever we need. It was pretty cool to see. Hopefully in a year or so, when everything is more or less back to normal, we can start proselyting out here and open up some new doors that might have never opened otherwise. It will be a long process, but I'm glad to help out now to bring people to the Gospel in the future. I imagine myself as a tool by which Heavenly Father shows his love for the people of Far Rock. They are in a time of need right now, and He sends out the missionaries to show that He loves these people and wants them to feel comforted. I've learned a lot about charity and love and just how much Heavenly Father loves us over the past month that we've worked. I'm sorry that it takes a hurricane to open up hearts, but I'm glad that Heavenly Father is making such great use of it during these times. 
Elder Erickson

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

12th Epistle From Elder Kaleb Erickson

Hello Everyone!                                                November 19, 2012
This opportunity for service in Far Rockaway continues and probably will go on for the next month or so. We had a mission conference last Friday, I think it was meant to help confirm to people that giving service wasn't a waste of time and that it was still doing missionary work. Also to remind people that we shouldn't be proselyting while we're out there.

I don't know if you remember from a while ago, we had just started teaching a new investigator, her name is Lisa. She and her husband, Terrance, are chiropractors. I think I spelled that right. Well anyways, their office is right in the area where we've been working and Terrance asked if we would help clear out the basement of the office. We were happy to help. It took us pretty much the whole day on that one basement. But at the end of it, he came in and offered us all free full-body adjustments for our help. I don't know if you've ever had a full-body adjustment, but they are freaking awesome. I guess the idea behind it is that he realigns all the slightly out of place segments of your spine so that your brain can send all the signals it needs to the body and it helps you heal faster and feel better. So that is just to help you know that I'm being taken care of out here. He told us we could come back twice a week for the next month too. So we're headed back tomorrow to get fixed up again.
Every weekend there are a ton of volunteers that still come out. I keep waiting to see Elder Ryan Nadybal, but I bet he's too far away. Shame. That would have been fun. I've met a bunch of people from the Boston stake though.

We don't have any plans for Thanksgiving yet. We're thinking the new Branch President of the Rockaway branch might invite us to their house for dinner. They're a senior missionary couple, very nice people. I don't know them too well yet, but my companion says they might invite us over.  None of the families in Rockaway are quite up to throwing a thanksgiving dinner at the moment. If nothing happens there, we're planning a trip to McDonald's. Can't complain with either option.

There are a ton of National Guard out here in Far Rock.  Food isn't so much an issue for us. Mayor Bloomburg has set up a fund to send food trucks out to the Rockaways every day. So there are all these food trucks everywhere giving out free food. Well, at least two or three of them every day. They're meant for the victims, but everybody loves us out there, so they tell us to come get food too. And there are always people throwing big barbecues out on the street for anybody passing by. The whole community has come together to help people, it's pretty cool. Lunch is easy to find every day. Usually we grab something before we leave for the day and it tides me over until dinner at 6 or 7. Then I make whatever I have lying around. I bought a bunch of fruit, so you can know that I'm eating somewhat healthy. And I have a big two liter bottle that I fill up with water and try to drink 2 liters of water a day. I don't want to get dehydrated.
We still have no idea how long we'll be out here working, but the work seems to get easier every day. My triceps are unreal from all the hammer swinging I've done. 

I got to work with some Hispanic members yesterday, so I got to practice my Spanish. That was a lot of fun. It's coming along slowly. Everybody says that I speak it really well, but my problem is understanding people. I guess I still need to train my ear to recognize Spanish. Oh yeah, Elder Wolfe took some action shots of me working yesterday. I was going to send them to you, but they're on his camera. Maybe I'll just have him send them. We'll see. I'll get them to you eventually. It helps me keep working every day to know that I'm doing the Lord's work!

Elder Erickson

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Happy to Serve

11th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson  serving in Far Rockaway, New York  11/13/12

Hey everybody!
Every day is an adventure out here in New York. Not a whole lot has changed since my last email. We still go to Far Rock and do service every day. Things look a little better every day, it's cool to see the whole place start to improve. But there are some stories to tell along the way.
So last week I told you that my companion and I had gotten metro cards because we ran out of gas in our car. The trip out to Far Rockaway is pretty round about. If we're lucky and catch the limited bus, it only takes us an hour and a half to get out there. If we don't catch the limited, it's a solid 2 hour block of the day, just taking a bus and a train to get out there. And that's just one way. So it's a pretty long trip. We would leave around 8 in the morning and usually get out there by 10 to start the day.

By this point, most people have their basements drained and most of their things have been hauled out to the curb. So now begins the super fun event of tearing out basements. I am getting really good at using a crowbar and a hammer to do some solid damage. We always wear gloves and masks, don't worry about me getting sick or hurt from anything. People are usually good about providing us with masks if we don't have them.

Things started to get really organized last week. Most of the mission is in full service mode at the moment. We don't really have an area to proselyte in, so we just do service every day. For the areas with places to proselyte, they trade off every day between service and teaching. So there's always a big group of missionaries working to help the people. We've been in Far Rock just about every day, but I know there are a bunch of people in Staten Island and out further on Long Island working as well. The whole mission has really come together to help with this disaster.

It's awesome how the attitudes of the people in Far Rock have changed since we started working. We wear yellow vests that say Mormon Helping Hands on them and people are always stopping us to ask for help. We would get one assignment and just walking to get to that house, three or four people would stop us to ask for our help as well. There's so many people to help, President Calderwood set up a list that people can put their names on and then the assignments can be distributed to the elders to work on. Now that we're organized, things are really getting done out there.

The weekends are really cool. Every Saturday and Sunday they bus in members from surrounding areas to help clean up. On Saturday we had almost 700 members from other parts of New York and from Philadelphia and Maryland. I'm sure there were other areas, but I only met people from those places. There were yellow vests everywhere. We did so much work. And even better, on Sunday we had 800 volunteers. Those days were really just incredible. People are seeing the good work that we do and we are able to help so many people. It's amazing.

Saturday our apartment in Far Rockaway finally got power again. Elder Wolfe and I decided to head back there to save gas. I forgot to mention that on Thursday we were finally able to get gas. There was a member of the mission presidency out here who has been driving way out to New Jersey and Philadelphia to get gas in cans and bring them back for the missionaries. It was impossible to buy gas in the city. There was huge demand and not enough supply. There were people fighting in gas stations in some areas. So we were really grateful that they provided gas for us. But as of Saturday, we are moved back in to our apartment in Far Rockaway. We have power and warm water, so all is well there. And a comfy bed again. That's the best part.

Normally Monday is our P-day, but they switched it to Tuesday so we could do service yesterday. It was only missionaries yesterday, but we still did a lot of good work out there. We usually work from 9:30 until 4 in the afternoon. After then it starts to get dark and without power in the area, it's really no good to do any work. But that is still a long time to work and we can usually rip out quite a few basements in that time. Then we have the last few hours of the day to relax and prepare to rip out a new basement the next day. I'm not sure what the schedule is for next week, but I will send a new email on either Monday or Tuesday.

Last Thursday was a very interesting day. The day before there was a big snowstorm in New York. We were worried about the areas already hit hard by the storm, but they were pretty much fine. Just cold and lots of snow. So because of that, we couldn't do service on Thursday. Elder Wolfe and I decided to do some laundry and he got the call that he needed to get a ride with some other elders to go get gas in another city so we could get out to Far Rockaway easier. 

We had just started the laundry though, so someone needed to stay to switch them over and the other would go. So we decided to go on splits with the elders we were staying with, Elder Bond and Elder Solis. Elder Bond went with Elder Wolfe and Elder Solis and I stayed in Richmond Hill. We finished the laundry and we had nothing else to to that day. It was a clear day, maybe 40 degrees outside, so Elder Solis said we should go proselyting. I had my suit and there was nothing else to do, so we headed out to go knock some doors.

Elder Solis had only been in the area for about 5 days before the hurricane hit, so he didn't know the area very well. And I knew nothing about it, so we were about even. The upside is that Elder Solis is from Mexico, so he is super good at Spanish. And we were in a Spanish area, so we had to go find some Hispanics to teach. The area is about a 15 minute train ride from our house, so we headed out, picked a street, and started knocking.

We didn't have too much success. We talked to a couple people, but the problem with Hispanics is that a lot of the time they will pretend to be interested and tell you to come back, even though they really aren't interested and don't want anything to do with you. Then when you come back, they won't be home. So it's hard to be sure when you talk with people, whether they are really interested or not. And it's also hard because we talked with a lot of Dominicans and I can't understand them very well. They talk way too fast for me. But I had Elder Solis with me, so I was set. No worries there. If the person spoke English, I would take it, and then we would trade off on the Spanish ones. So even though we didn't have too much success, it was good practice for me. I did give out a Book of Mormon in English to a guy who seemed genuinely interested, so that was pretty cool.

But at one point, Elder Solis and I both had to use the bathroom. We didn't want to go back home because the train ride would have been 15 minutes. Way too long. He said, oh hey I know an investigator in the area, she would let us use her bathroom. We called, but got no answer, so we decided to just go to McDonalds and buy something so we could use the bathroom. As we were waiting in line, she called us back and she lived just nearby, so it was perfect.

We knocked on the door and she let us in. Her name is Rosa. I introduced myself and she said, "Oh yeah I know you! I read the story you published!" I was super confused at this point, because I've never really published anything. She explained further that she read the story I put up on my blog about the hurricane. She lives with a member, named Maya, who I guess found my blog with the emails I send home and showed it to Rosa. Rosa was interested in it because she loves stories and she has a sister who lives in Far Rockaway. She told me that when she read it, she knew that she would meet me someday. I was blown away by it all. It was crazy that she had read this and was able to quote parts of it, so I knew she had actually read it.

We stayed there and talked with her for a while. She's a very nice woman with two super cute kids. She spoke Spanish, but thankfully she spoke really good English so I was able to talk with her without any concerns about understanding. Eventually Elder Solis said that we should teach her about prayer. It seemed like a good idea to me. Rosa was hesitant at first; she didn't want to be committed into anything. Then she stopped and told us this was crazy. She said that she was having Deja Vu, like she had been in this same spot before. I thought that was pretty cool. I had heard once that when you have Deja Vu, it's because two potential soul paths are crossing and it means you are in the right place. I forget who told me that, but I've always liked that explanation of it. I told her that and she seemed to like that. She was much more open to it after that. So we taught what prayer is and Elder Solis had me give an example prayer. Then we told her that when we left, we wanted her to try saying a prayer.

She was super nervous about this. We kept on telling her it would be alright and it would be easy. We talked for a while about other things and then the time came that we had to leave. It was perfect timing because the member who lives with her, Maya, had just walked in the door. She came in and joined us and helped give Rosa a bit more confidence with the whole prayer thing. Once Rosa started praying, it was incredible. She just kept going once she started. It was an amazing and really heartfelt prayer. Granted, I missed a couple parts of it because it was in Spanish and she talked really fast, but I got most of it and the Spirit was there, so that's all that really matters.

I told her that I was going to have to write about all of this in my blog now. I told her I felt famous because somebody knew who I was. She didn't like the idea of me writing about her very much, but agreed that I could as long as I mentioned that Elder Solis slipped and fell on some steps while we were out tracting. He didn't get hurt, his feet slipped right out from under him and he landed on the steps. It was pretty funny to watch actually. So there you go Rosa, our deal is complete. And as a sidenote, Maya is going to serve a mission soon, so good luck to her as well!

That is more or less the extent of my adventures at the moment. Things are very slowly getting back to normal, although I have no idea when we'll stop doing service every day. It's all we have planned for the next week or so. Maybe by mid-December we'll get back to regular things. But I doubt it. There's too much to be done in Far Rockaway for things to be back to normal any time soon. Oh and in my last email, I was wrong about some facts on Far Rockaway. The streets go way past 136th street. They go up to like 150, then there's a bunch of open land, then there's a whole other community out further on the peninsula called Breezy Point. That's where the huge fire was that destroyed some 100 homes from the hurricane. We haven't been to that point yet, but we did some service out on Breezy Point the other day.

But life is well here. There is a huge camp set up on 129th street where they have supplies and food for victims and volunteers for the hurricane. So we always get a warm lunch out there. It's hilarious, when people come up to us as we walk down the street, it's either for two things: To ask for help or to offer us food. The whole community has really come together to provide food for volunteers and for the needy. That and to ask how many wives we can have. I've been asked that a lot. People always seem surprised to hear that we only get one wife. So I guess you could say I'm still doing teaching while I'm serving as well. Thanks for all your support and prayers, I'm happy to serve the people out here and I'm learning a lot every day!

Love,    Elder Erickson

Elder Kaleb Erickson welcomes letters.  Please write to:
20-02 Seagrit Blvd #5F
Far Rockaway, NY 11691

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

10th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson    serving in New York New York South Mission

November 5, 2012       Hello from Far Rockaway, New York.

I am still serving in Far Rockaway but my companion and I are still staying in East Brooklyn. There is no power in Far Rock and there probably won't be for a while, so we opted to stay with the other elders in East New York. We like the refrigerator and the warm showers. Elder Wolfe and I did some shopping last week, so we have lots of food in the house. Don't worry, I'm being as healthy as I know how to be. Which I don't think is too bad. I got some fruits and vegetables and have been drinking lots of water.

We went back to our apartment last week and everything is fine there. No power, so all our food has gone bad, but everything is dry. We picked up some extra things we needed to stay at the other place. I didn't have too many work clothes, so we went to get some last week. I bought some extra shirts and socks so I can have enough to work every day. It's funny, I have all the white shirts and sunday pants and socks I could ever need, but nothing to go tear up dry-wall with. So that was a good investment. I also bought a heavier jacket for pretty cheap because it's starting to get cold. A member gave us all some work gloves, so I have been grateful to have those.

As for transportation, that is a fascinating topic. My companion and I have a car and the church pays for gas, so usually we don't have any concerns there. But New York City is crazy for gas right now. Lines go down the street for blocks, it's insane. We don't have much gas left, so we stopped driving around. We had to go to the mission office and pick up metro cards so we can still get around. The trip out to Far Rock takes about an hour and a half by a train and two busses. But it still gets us out there, so we can't complain. It's about an hour drive anyways, so it's not that much worse. And you get to see crazy looking people on the train, so that's always a fun adventure.

We had church yesterday in Richmond Hill, but it was only sacrament meeting with one speaker, then they brought out school busses to take all the members out to Far Rockaway to help. That was awesome! We had easily 200 members out there helping. People have finally warmed up to us and they love the Mormons now. The missionaries helped break down the concerns during the rest of the week in order for yesterday to work though. By Thursday people knew who we were as we walked around Far Rock. As we walked back to our car at the end of the day people would wave to us and thank us for our help, it was way cool. Yesterday we had people telling us that if we ever knocked on their door, they would happily let us in. I don't exactly know what they mean by that, but it's cool to see that people are recognizing the church as an organization that gives aid and relief. One guy was complaining how the Red Cross has done nothing but drive by his house twice, but we actually stopped to help him, so he was really grateful to us. We're doing lots of really good work out there and in other areas on Long Island too.

I'm not sure how much longer we will be doing service, but since we don't really have an area to proselyte in, I bet we will be doing service for a while. I'm doing fine here. I've got plenty of food and water and warmth. Oh, you asked about laundry too. There's a laundromat just down the street from the house we're living in. Elder Wolfe and I just walked down and did our laundry last Friday. That's probably what we'll stick with as long as we live in Richmond Hill.

As for letters you might send me, address them to the mission office.

New York New York South Mission.
8569 60th Drive  
Elmhurst, NY  11373-5547

They aren't delivering to Far Rockaway and the office doesn't know to forward it to where we're currently staying. We can take the train out to the office though and get anything that is sent there.

So yeah, things are just grand out here. It's very tiring to work every day, but it feels good to be able to see the service you are rendering to these people. Dad is right, I've pretty much got plenty of material for a homecoming talk already. But I'll have lots more at the end of these two years. It will be a fun adventure.

Elder Erickson

Monday, November 5, 2012

Hurricane Sandy hits Long Island

9th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in NY-NY South     October 31, 2012

Whirlwind of an Adventure!  Hurricane Sandy!

Hey all!

Boy howdy, these last two weeks have been quite the adventure. I never would have ever guessed that any of this was going to happen. But I guess I need to start with getting to the mission field before I go into the hurricane adventures. 

So we arrived last Monday afternoon. We visited President Calderwood's house for dinner and to spend the night. Not much happened there. Tuesday morning we headed off to transfer meeting where we met our trainers and got our first area. My trainer is a really cool guy named Elder Wolfe. He is from Sandy, Utah and is about 18 months out on his mission. Our area is a place called Far Rockaway. It's a peninsula just south of Long Island, but it's considered part of Queens. They call it a zebra pool because our area covers both English and Spanish people. We live in an apartment with two other elders, one of which happens to be Elder Bush, my companion from the MTC. So that was kind of funny. 

Let me tell you about Far Rockaway. It is quite the place. It's a super big area so my companion and I get a car to get around. The streets there are all done by numbers. Our area starts on 44th street, closer to the mainland. It goes out until 136th street on the end of the peninsula. The lower the number, the more poor the area. Or at least that's the general concept here. You go from really poor, really sad living conditions in the 40's to the 60's, to kind of a better situation in the 70's to the 90's. By the time you get to the 100's it is all very rich homes there. Lots of whites and Jews and they all have these incredible, huge homes. They don't like to talk to us very much so we don't go there too often. We only have one member down there and we just picked up an investigator over there. 

That is an incredible story there. Her name is Lisa; she and her husband are chiropractors and they have two cute little kids. She was brought up Catholic, but told us that her whole life she has always felt something was missing from her church. She actually looked us up on Mormon.org and we got the referral to go talk to her from the MTC. We met with her last Thursday, that was my first time teaching the first discussion in the real world. And let me tell you, it was freaking awesome. She loved all of it. It was a really cool lesson. We taught and bore testimony and the Spirit came and we know she felt it too. We gave her a Book of Mormon at the end and she was so excited to start reading in it.  She asked if there were stories in it that she could share with her kids so they could start getting to know it. She is a golden investigator. It was incredible to teach her. We planned to teach her the Plan of Salvation this week and invite her family to be baptized, but things kind of took a different turn. More on that later.

We taught a bunch of people that first week. It's all new and crazy to me, it kind of still feels unreal in some ways. My Spanish is doing alright, but we teach a lot of people from the Dominican Republic and they have an interesting form of Spanish that's not very easy to understand. That and they talk super fast. It's stupid how fast they talk. But so far, they Dominicans make the best food, so it's hard to complain too much about them. We actually have a Dominican woman named Tilsa scheduled to be baptized this Sunday. Well, she was scheduled for this Sunday. We're not entirely sure whether that's still possible or if we need to push it back. 

So the real adventure got started on Thursday afternoon. We were visiting a less active member and she asked us what we were doing about the hurricane. We had heard nothing about it so she showed us a news report on it. I guess there was a hurricane here last year, Hurricane Irene, that was supposed to be a big deal then ended up being nothing. So people kind of felt that this hurricane would be the same thing as last year. Over the next few days we asked people what they thought and it was pretty unanimous. Everyone was staying, it was all blown out of proportion, it would probably just rain for a few days. So we kept going about our merry way. Saturday evening we got a text from the Zone Leaders. They told us that we would stay until Monday evening and they would let us know by 4 PM if we would be evacuated or not. We were kind of feeling that it would be a repeat of last year as well, my companion wanted to just stay in our apartment and wait it out. The problem with Far Rockaway is that it's a peninsula so it's surrounded on both sides by water. This means that a solid hurricane would dominate all of Far Rock. It would be bad news. 

Sunday we went to church. That was an adventure in itself. I was asked to play piano for priesthood meeting, for the primary program, and for sacrament meeting. Then two of the speakers dropped out for sacrament meeting so they asked me and Elder Bush to speak. In Spanish, of course. So we each had to give a ten minute talk on testimonies. Elder Bush had some time to prepare, but I was busy playing piano in Primary, so I went up there with nothing. But everyone said I did fine, so I guess it worked out. During church, we got a text from President Calderwood that we would be evacuating that afternoon. Elder Wolfe and I were headed to stay with some other elders in east New York, a place called Richmond Hill. Elder Bush and his companion were going somewhere else. So after church, we headed home and packed up a few things. We only thought we would be there for like a day and that we'd be back in Far Rock by Tuesday, so we didn't bring that much.

We got to Richmond Hill and were greeted by Elder Bond and Elder Solis. Very nice guys. We had to spend a lot of time together, so it's a good thing. We didn't do much that night, just played some cards and hung out. Monday morning came and we still had little idea what was going on. It wasn't that bad in our area, just some rain and some wind. Nothing out of the ordinary. It just felt like a normal, rainy day. Our landlord lives on the floor above us in the house, and he let us borrow his Kindle Fire to send emails to our parents. While we had it, we checked out cnn to get some news on the hurricane. That's when we started to realize that this was a really big deal. We were hardly getting anything where we were. A few trees fell; one fell right outside our house, but nothing really bad. So Monday we just hung out and rode out the storm. 

Tuesday morning, we still had no news from the mission president. We just kept up our three day chill session because there was nothing else to do. We drove around the city a bit and saw all the trees that fell around the city. Lots of fallen trees, but nothing really bad in Richmond Hill. My companion and I walked around Brooklyn a bit because he knows the area really well. It hardly hit them at all. We asked some members about it and they said that it didn't affect them at all. Such a drastic difference from what we would find on Wednesday morning. 

Wednesday morning, we finally got the call to head out and do some work. Most of the elders in southern New York were called to come to an area in Nassau County to help clean up houses around one neighborhood. We all showed up, ready to help, but very few people needed our help. The main problem with this area seemed to be a lack of power and there was some flooding damage. Not fun to be a part of, but nothing too horrible. We wandered for an hour and nobody wanted our help. Then we heard that there was a group headed to Far Rockaway. Elder Wolfe and I jumped right on that and headed over to our area. We're responsible for the eternal salvation of all those people, so we might as well go help them clean up their houses in this time of need. 

Elder Wolfe & Elder Erickson 10-31-12  Far Rockaway NY.

I was not prepared for the amount of damage we would see there. The whole place was just wrecked. Fences are gone, trees are knocked over, cars were moved around by the flooding. It was just horrible. You can see it in the faces of the people as they walk around, this place got hit hard. We drove down to the farther end of the peninsula because there are more homes there and less big apartment buildings. That's when things got even worse. The hurricane hit everyone so hard here, it's unreal. Flooding up to five and six feet in some places. Lots of streets were still flooded with a lot of water as we drove around. And sand. Sand everywhere. So much, you don't know what to do with it. How did all this sand wash onto the streets?

We decided to go visit Lisa, our investigator, since she lives in one of the worse hit areas. She was doing alright, but she showed us her basement and that was rough. Their entire basement filled with water and it almost flooded into the main house. Water had started to break through the floorboards. But they were alright and felt very blessed. She told us that she would let us know if we needed anything. We proceeded down the street to help whoever else we could. There was just so much damage done to these houses. It was so sad. The houses on the edge of the beach were just destroyed. We walked along and were in awe at how these houses had just crumpled and fell apart. We talked to a bunch of people on the street and offered our help but nobody would take it. They're so afraid of looters and people who say they will help and then steal stuff, that nobody wanted our help. It was really sad.  The sand is everywhere and everyone has water in their basements. They need to pump all the water out, but where to pump it? The sewers are all plugged with sand right now, so they can't do much. It's going to take a long time to fix everything. 

We finally found a woman, her name was Marie, who was willing to let us help her. When we walked up and offered to help, she started to break down in tears because she felt so overwhelmed by the amount of work they had to do. It was just she and her husband, Ernesto. Their main house was okay, but their basement was completely flooded and there was sand everywhere. We got right to work, clearing a canal so the water could drain, once they found a pump. Then we cleared the sand from the front of the house. She was so grateful for the help that she offered to take us to dinner. We had other elders with us, so we couldn't accept. Then she tried to give us $100. We turned that down as well. We told her that it was reward enough for us to be able to help her. She reluctantly said that was okay, but insisted on hugging us for our work. I wish we could have stayed and helped more, but we had other directions from President Calderwood. 

Since it's Halloween, all elders have to be in by 6. That still applies even now. So we headed back to hang out again in our little house. We're getting really good at that. Elder Wolfe and I headed over to the chapel to send out our email since we missed our P-day due to a hurricane. 

And that brings me here. I don't even know how to describe what today was like. A week ago, I was stressed about trying to learn the roads and figure out the people and learn all the names and figure out the Spanish. Now my only concern is helping all these people rebuild their lives. Some people lost everything in this storm. My whole mission changed in just a few days. There is so much work to be done in Far Rock right now. We can't go back to our apartment because there's no power there. And there probably won't be for a couple more days. In the meantime, we'll just keep living in Richmond Hill and driving back to help out everyone that we can. I forgot to mention, but on the very far end of the peninsula, there was a big fire. 108 houses were burned to the ground in that fire. It's just unbelievable. So much damage. So sad. I'm just happy to have this opportunity to be here to help these people in need. We will be helping people for a long time here. 

In the meantime, all is well with me. I am very blessed to have been moved to a safe area that wasn't affected too much. God has blessed me with health and safety so it's only right that I give back to help those less fortunate in Far Rockaway. It's a good opportunity to serve and show people that our church is only here to help people. I wish it didn't require so much destruction, but this will have humbled a lot of people and perhaps they will be more willing to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ in their lives now. But we won't be proselyting for a long time with all the work there is to be done. 

So that's the tale so far. How I arrived in New York and six days later my whole area was destroyed by the most expensive natural disaster in American history. It will make for an excellent story when it's all over. 

Elder Erickson